The World Series ended just over one month ago, but baseball junkies have something for which to look forward. Real junkies are counting the days until pitchers and catchers report to Florida (or Arizona) for spring training.
For those counting, it is a little over 70 days, depending on the particular team.
When that happens, it is time to look forward to Grapefruit League games spread around the state. The schedule reveals tourists and locals will have more talent than usual to see in 2017.
The 15 major league teams training in Florida will play a total of 251 games against each other around the state. In addition, the semi-annual World Baseball Classic will also visit Florida for early round matchups as well as exhibition games with major league teams.
Games begin on February 23 with Florida Southern facing Detroit in Lakeland and the University of Tampa playing Philadelphia in Clearwater. Spring Training wraps up April 1.
A few things are different for 2017. As Florida’s Major League tenants look for a more compact Grapefruit League, some movement has occurred.
The Washington Nationals have left Viera and are moving into the state’s newest facility, The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Joining them are the Houston Astros, who vacated Kissimmee. The Detroit Tigers will be playing in the new-and-improved Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium.
“The Florida Grapefruit League experience at a Major League Spring Training game is one of the best sports experiences around,” John Webb, President of the Florida Sports Foundation said in a release. “There is something for everyone in the family at all of the ballparks in Florida. It makes for a great family vacation.”
The World Baseball Classic, featuring 16 teams from around the globe, will have four of those teams in Miami between March 9 and 13. In addition to the WBC games at Marlins Park, the United States, Canada, Dominican Republic and Colombia will also play exhibitions in Florida cities.
Among the highlights are games between Canada and the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin on March 7 and the New York Yankees in Tampa on March 8. Also on March 8, the USA plays Minnesota in Fort Myers, the Dominican Republic plays Pittsburgh in Bradenton and Colombia visits Port Charlotte to face the Rays.
The USA’s final WBC tune-up is in Fort Myers on March 9 when they play the Boston Red Sox.
According to the Florida Sports Foundation, more than 26 million fans have attended Florida Spring Training games since 2000. Each year, spring baseball provides a $753 million economic impact to the state.